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Crime is falling but number of arrests for drug driving remains at high level

Kenway Miller is a niche firm dealing with the defence of drug driving charges, to obtain advice and enquire about representation call us on 08004334678 or leave a contact form and we will call you back as soon as possible.

As we enter our sixth week of lockdown measures introduced by the Government to combat the spread of Covid-19, there has been a fall in many types of crime as pubs and shops have remain closed. Conversely, we have noticed an increase in the number of enquiries we have received from those arrested on suspicion of drug driving. This may be because resources have been directed more towards policing the roads as the police have found themselves with more time on their hands than would otherwise be the case.

It is now over 5 years since individual limits were introduced for drugs and it became an offence to drive above the legal limit for substances like THC (the active compound of cannabis), cocaine, benzoylecgonine (the breakdown product of cocaine), MDMA and a number of prescription drugs.

Since that time, we have received countless enquiries from motorists across England and Wales who have found themselves under investigation on suspicion of being above the prescribed limits. Some have been released from custody pending the results of a laboratory analysis, others have been charged by way of postal requisition and having to attend Court.

For many of these individuals, being arrested is a completely new experience and one which has come as a complete surprise. They may have been stopped randomly by the police or because of a minor defect in relation to their vehicle, such as a tail light being out. Often there is no suggestion at all that their driving was impaired before they were stopped and the police were simply “trying their luck.”

Unfortunately, the police are entitled to stop vehicles randomly and do not need to provide a reason for stopping a vehicle. Technically they must have grounds to suspect the motorist has taken drugs in order to administer a preliminary test, however in practice this is a low hurdle to overcome. Often the reason is recorded as being “slurred speech” or “dilated pupils” when in reality no such grounds for suspicion exist. It is a “no lose” situation as far as the arresting officer is concerned as if the test is negative, they will normally allow the motorist on their way. If it is positive, then the officer now has grounds to arrest the motorist – a case of the end justifying the means.

Why have I been charged with drug driving if there was nothing wrong with my driving?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked. The answer can be found when considering the Government’s intention when it first introduced the offence. The report published by an advisory group made up of a panel of experts appointed by the Government suggested a limit for THC of 5ug/l of blood which was intended to reflect the level of the drug which was commonly believed to impair driving.  The levels which the Government eventually decided upon was 2ug/l and was intended to reflect a “zero tolerance” approach to anyone with the drug in their system. Similarly, the limit for cocaine and its breakdown product, benzoylecgonine were set much lower than what had been suggested by the Government’s experts.

The effects of THC to wear off after a few hours, but the drug can remain in the blood for several days or in the case of heavy users, weeks after consumption and long after the effects have worn off. Those with a high tolerance level may find themselves several times over the legal limit but with no discernible effect having occurred on the quality of their driving.

The reality is that the only way of ensuring that the level of THC or cocaine in your body stays below the legal limit is not to consume the drug at all. In reality, this is easier said than done for many people and the number of people charged with the offence continues to increase. Some police forces are reporting that the number of people arrested for drug driving is now surpassing the number for drink driving.

It is understandable that those arrested and charged with drug driving may feel hard done by. A common complaint is the apparent injustice caused by the thought of someone being disqualified and potentially losing their licence when their driving was perfectly fine and the level of the drug in their system was unlikely to have resulted in them being impaired. However well-founded they may be, these sorts of arguments will be given short thrift by the Courts

Successful defences to drug driving can be placed into two broad categories, based on either the legitimacy of procedure followed by the police during the arrest and blood sample procedure or the reliability of the analysis itself. The reliability of the analysis which may be impacted by the way it was handled post-donation or by the methods followed by the laboratory which tested the sample.

If you are unfortunate enough to be charged, you will only be provided with limited material by the prosecution. The disclosure process has been streamlined in order to reduce the amount of time and resources spent on each case. The prosecution wants you to plead guilty and for your case to go through the system with the minimum time and effort on its part as by doing so you will make their job a lot easier. However, if contested drug driving is one of the most technically challenging of all motoring offences for the police and Crown Prosecution Service to prove. If you decided to enter a not guilty plea there are numerous technical issues that can be raised but it is important that you instruct a solicitor with experience who knows how to set out the case. If you do so you will give yourself the best possible opportunity of keeping your driving licence.